Audio steps allow learners to listen to material while taking notes. This is easier than taking notes while watching video content and is less passive. Learners comprehend information differently when listening. Done well, audio can support comprehension of a topic and increase educator presence. Educators are often more comfortable when recorded than via video.
It is an excellent alternative to video. It tends to be simple and cost-effective to produce.
Material presented in audio format should benefit from this choice of medium. For example an in-depth case study, interview, or story.
Designing audio best practice
1. The maximum length of audio
Is 15 minutes. Research suggests the average attention span of an adult listening is 15-20 minutes. Long audio, must be downloadable for those with bad internet connections so that they can listen offline.
2. Make it accessible
Many learners require on-screen text to comprehend audio, for either language or disability reasons. A full PDF transcript is compulsory to pass our Quality Assurance review, see our accessibility QA criteria. Explore our transcript guidance.
3. Undertake pre-recording planning
Good audio quality ensures the learner can remain focused on content rather than adjusting volume or unnecessarily having to repeat material because they can’t hear the audio clearly enough.
Any concurrence of dialogue and soundtrack (musical and/or atmospheric) is well balanced, and any use of soundtrack is relevant to the content rather than distracting.
In your planning, include opportunities for learners to pause audio, reflect and comment.
4. MP4 format only.
Audio steps allow for the uploading of short audio clips in MP4 files are 44.1KHz, 16-bit stereo at minimum 128 kbps. When recording be sure that volume levels are largely consistent, normalized to 23 LUFS. We suggest working with the R128 standard supported by the European Broadcasting Union.
NOTE (3 August 2022) - MP3 file audio steps will currently not play on iOS browsers. Please convert any existing MP3 audio files to MP4 before uploading.
5. Get the best from your experts
Think carefully about who will feature in your audio step. Choose contributors or interviewees who can talk passionately and energetically about the subject matter. Often they are less confident in front of the camera but have a lot of useful viewpoints to share. It's a lot easier to edit less confident speakers to sound great in audio steps. Audio is ideal for content which is covering a sensitive subject, because contributors are often more comfortable giving a more detailed interview via audio.
It's possible to embed audio in the body of text within other step types including within quizzes and tests. This is called inline audio. Inline audio is suitable if audio is not the primary content but illustrates ideas and notions.
To add inline audio:
- upload the audio as an asset on any article step within the course (make a note of the step so you can find it again!).
- do this by selecting an article step within an activity and before clicking ‘edit article step’ scroll down to the heading ‘assets’
- once uploaded a link will appear. Copy the link and paste it somewhere for a moment.
- go to the step where you wish to insert the inline audio. Insert the following using markdown, with no gaps:
[Alt text](link to asset)Words you wish to be hyperlinked to the audio
This example demonstrates pronunciation without breaking up the flow of the text:
Learn more about audio in the step Plan Your Media in week 1 of How to Create a Great FutureLearn Course. Ask your Partnership Manager for access.
Terminology on this page that you aren’t familiar with? Check out our glossary.